This comes after multiple people I know (all of whom are educated on political matters) have said to me that they are very worried about President Obama's chances for reelection in 2012.
"I don't think he's got it sewn up at all," one friend of mine said to me recently.
"He doesn't have a chance in hell of getting reelected," said my father.
Well, my father's never correct on these matters -- so I'm not worried.
And, yes, I will admit that the President has had a rough couple of months. There are any number of mistakes President Obama could make that would sink his reelection. And I'm not convinced that he will win the overwhelming victory he won in 2008. He's going to have to work like hell to keep those GOP-tilting states like Florida, Ohio, Virginia and Indiana in his column. But Obama has one big advantage that I think will push him over the finish line:
The Republicans don't have a credible alternative.
Let's recall his potential challengers:
Mitt Romney. At this point, my money is on the Mittster to get the nomination. The GOP has a tendency to reward strong second placers in the next cycle, and while Mike Huckabee was technically second place in 2008, the Mittster is doing his best to make everybody think this was not the case.
I also think that given the fact that Romney is a reasonably smart guy, and a somewhat competent governor, he would probably be the GOP's wisest and most credible alternative. (He would also be the most responsible pick... Like that matters.) But Romney has, in my mind, at least three fatal flaws.
1) His Mormonism.
It's a shame that this should count against him -- but it does. (I don't think it's a total disqualifier, but he's going to need every last vote in 2012 and this will harm him.)
2) Health care.
The Mittster's Massachusetts health care bill was essentially the blueprint for Obamacare. This means he is going to have to face a choice -- attack his own stewardship as governor, or cede the healthcare debate to Obama. Either way, Mitt is screwed.
3) He is the most transparently phony politician I've ever seen.
I actually think phoniness shouldn't be a disqualifier in and of itself. (I remain proud of my 2004 vote for John Kerry.) But when half of your own party thinks you're a shameless panderer, you're in big trouble.
Sarah Palin. There's a part of this old Democrat that lies in bed at night with visions of Sarah Palin winning the nomination dancing in his head... Because if she is the nominee, as Daniel Larison recently predicted, Obama wins a 1984-level landslide.
Palin has great appeal to the fringe right -- and no appeal to anyone else.
While Rich Lowry might feel his heart going pitter pat every time she speaks, the majority of the country thinks she's a bubble headed moron, who couldn't finish out a single term as governor and couldn't handle an interview with Katie Couric. I know numerous right wing Republicans who agree with her on every issue -- and yet can't stand the fact that she's the face of their movement. "She's right," someone I know who was active in the GOP said to me, "but she doesn't know why she's right -- and that worries me."
Mike Huckabee. Yet another 49 state triumph for President Obama.
The New Yorker had a piece a week or two ago saying that he was the frontrunner -- to which my response is: get real.
Mike Huckabee has one thing going for him: He's by far the most likable candidate that the GOP has right now. But every time Huckabee talks about something substantive, he winds up on the scary extreme of an issue. (Fair tax? Really?) Or he invokes God in a way that would make George W. Bush blush. (He once credited divine intervention with his improving poll numbers.)
Yes, we might want a nice guy as our pastor. But do we trust him with America's economy? With wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? With serious problems like climate change and immigration? I think the answer would be a resounding no.
Tim Pawlenty. This would be the GOP equivalent of nominating John Kerry. He's a lot less crazy than Palin or Huckabee. But he is so lukewarm that very few people would be filling the streets to elect him president. There was a reason that John McCain didn't pick him to be his running mate.
I don't think Bobby Jindal is ready for prime time yet. Likewise, I think Scott Brown is, as of right now, no real threat. It's one thing to do very well in a special election, but to start running for president he'd have to do so in early 2011 and I just don't think he has spent enough time in the spotlight for that. (Although, similar things were said about President Obama -- so you never know.) The one candidacy that truly worries me is that of David Petraeus. It looks to me like Petraeus isn't very interested in running (and Obama might have neutralized this threat by asking him to take control of Afghanistan -- which might have been his greatest political trick yet) but if Petraeus turns around Afghanistan and announces his retirement next year, then President Obama should be worried. Otherwise, I think he just has to sit back and watch the GOP immolate itself.